Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men
by Meg Meeker, M.D.
New York: Ballantine Books, 2014
It seems to be an unwritten rule in parenting that as soon as you get used to whatever life stage your children are at, they move into another one. My sons are currently thirteen and eleven which means that they are beginning that difficult transition from boys to men. We are clearly in uncharted territory here. Luckily for me, Dr. Meg Meeker, respected pediatrician and author, has written a new book all about parenting these men-in-training (and keeping one’s sanity in the process!)
Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men acknowledges that raising sons presents a challenge that raising daughters does not. After all, we women can remember being girls and young women; we can never fully understand what it is like to be male. We still have a very important role to play in our son’s development, however. We “lay the foundation for how he will relate to women for the rest of his life.”
Meeker also emphasizes that no matter how much we might want to also fill the “father” role in his life, we can’t do that. Boys need to have a significant relationship with their father or another male role model if his father isn’t available. What we need to be is the best mother we can be. “This book is about helping every mother understand and accept who she is and who she isn’t . . . to accept that we are good enough, just the way we are, for our sons.”
Meeker shares the importance of spending time with our sons and telling them that we love them, even when they are in the midst of rejecting us in their quest to be independent. “Every boy reaches a time when he needs to make an emotional break from his mother.” Sometimes we simply need to be patient and available, even if it takes months for them to share something with us. “It’s a few words of encouragement during the day, exercising patience with him when he really needs it, or giving him a smile of affirmation when he feels like a failure that can change how he feels about himself and his life.”
While the chapter on talking with your son about sex is probably the most difficult to read and put into practice, although obviously extremely important, the chapter on wisdom and responsibility is the one with the eternal ramifications. We need to teach our sons that they need to be willing to ask God for help. We need to pray with and for them. As mothers, we also need to acknowledge that “we don’t own our sons.” They ultimately belong to God. Eventually, we need to let go and fully put him in God’s hands because our little boys grow into men who no longer need us.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t choose to have a relationship with us. “It really is in the letting go of our sons that we get them back. They return to us as men who are free from our needs and confident in themselves. . . Now it is time for them to be men who want, who among other things, to enjoy the company of their dear mother.”
Meeker shares the beautiful story of Fr. John Riccardo. He said “that it was at the moment that his mother gave him to God that he felt something deep and wonderful change in their relationship. He said that from that point forward, they enjoyed a new closeness that they had never experienced before. It was a closeness he knew they would never have had if his mother had not said goodbye to him.”
Not all of us will have the honor of raising a priest, but at some point, we all need to say goodbye to the parenting stage of raising our sons and move into an adult relationship with them. Strong Mothers, Strong Sons is a great guide to navigating the turbulent teen years and coming out on the other side with a quality relationship with our sons.
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Copyright 2014, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur